Last Minute

They had started closing the doors and rolling down the shutters on the displays before he was finished in the shop. It was all very polite, businesslike even. The routine at this time of day, observed without favouritism, not matter who was in the shop or what sort of hurry he might be in to get something special for his daughter’s birthday.

He had had a shit of a day. The kind of day when everything goes wrong and mostly it’s your fault, so the usual release of shouting very loudly at someone, directing anger away from yourself, was not available to him. Instead he converted most of the anger to frustration and placed it on top of the already copious pile he stored in his craw.

Firstly, the clock radio alarm had not come on in the morning, and thus hadn’t woken him at the right time. It hadn’t come on because he hadn’t set it, and he had no idea how that could have happened, but happen it did, and that meant he woke very late and very confused and he cursed his luck and told his reflection that he hated him when they were in the bathroom together. Nobody much noticed he was late when he arrived at work. He had run to the train station and run up steps and through crowds when he got off the train to get to the office. They noticed he was sweaty and his clothes were in disarray though, and this led to comments.

“Brian, you’d better get yourself cleaned up before the Stephenson people arrive,” said his boss Angela.

“Yes Angela, I’m just going to-”

“I wouldn’t dilly dally. They’ll be here in ten minutes, and you’ve got a lot to do.”

The reason Brian needed sprucing was because he had made himself arrive on time, though sheer will power, in order not to be late for the Stephenson people. Of course he knew they would be arriving in ten minutes. It was a case of tie skew whiff and a sticky shirt and being at the office, or being crisply attired and still standing on the platform, waiting for a train. He repaired to the men’s toilets and splashed water on his face. He tidied his hair with wet hands and straightened his tie. He would borrow someone’s jacket, he decided, and that would cover the sweat soaked shirt. He would be alright.

And of course the Stephenson people decided it should be a no jackets meeting. “Much more informal that way,” said a senior assistant to one of the executive assistants, “we find no jackets meetings are more efficient”, and Brian let out a mighty sigh of pain. He couldn’t hide – he was giving a presentation – and he knew what would happen. Confidence shaken his delivery was off, he became distracted while he was talking, losing his train of thought, repeating things or just forgetting what he was talking about, and before his spiel was over Angela took over from him. The Stephenson people said they would think about it and be in touch. Brian wasn’t confident. Although he knew his new toilet roll design was brilliant and would make someone plenty of money someday, he feared other people would grow rich from his work and he wold not.

That suspicion was given legitimacy when Angela told him in the afternoon that perhaps he should start looking at other packing and packaging conglomerates. She told him as a friend, she said, but Brian could never remember Angela being much of a friend to him. She had told him on a number of occasions that she didn’t like him, and now she could do something about it.

Brian had had a bad reaction to the tuna sandwich he ate at lunchtime too. That made him sick. It made him sweaty all over again. He was cold and hot at the same time. Shivering and running a temperature. This was not the best condition to be in when Angela basically commanded him to plead for his job. All Brian could really muster was a weak plea to be excused please. Angela interpreted this as lacking commitment, and hardness, and balls. Angela had balls. Bigger balls than Brian would ever have.

The day was creeping closer to going home time when Brian got a phone call about his car. They were towing it away. It was in the wrong zone. He had got that wrong too.

Racing across town to deal with the car meant that there was no time to buy a present for his daughter’s birthday. He thought of just buying a bottle of something potent to drink and dealing with the fallout from his ex-wife for missing this occasion. But he wouldn’t do that. It was a third birthday and it was important. He would keep looking, even if they locked the store up completely with him in it.

Published in: on December 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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